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Agilent 34461A Digital Multimeter - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 10
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 10
Demo Software was of good quality: 10
Product was easy to use: 10
Support materials were available: 10
The price to performance ratio was good: 9
TotalScore: 59 / 60
  • RoadTest: Agilent 34461A Digital Multimeter
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Independent Products
  • Was everything in the box required?: No - No temperature probe
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered:
  • What were the biggest problems encountered?:

  • Detailed Review:

    Hello fellow Road-tester,

     

    I'm one of the few that lucky enough to be selected to do the road test for the Agilent 34461A digital multimeter. Here I will share my experience with the DMM but

    beware that this review will consist a lot of rambling, personal opinions,but if you bear with me, and

    look really really careful, you could find some useful information

     

    Overview:

    Ahhh....the good old multimeter, if you could choose only one instrument, multimeter would be it(two multimeter

    would be better).So how the 34461A  perform as a multimeter you ask?.....first, lets dive into the spec.

     

    Agilent design the 34461A  for  the entry-level bench multimeter market ( for higher precision I would suggest 8½ digit version such as 3458A )

    .With 6½, hugeee graphical  display (109mm), 100uA to 10A DC it suitable design and test work.

     

    Adding to that Agilent marketed the 34461A as a drop in placement  for the 34401A DMM which is more than 20 years old (yikess). Which

    in industrial setting is very important (eliminating the need for new program etc)

    Agilent go to extra length to stressed that the 34461A was designed by the same people as the 34401A DMM, which to me speak volume of the realibility

    of the old 34401A DMM.

     

     

    First impression:

    The plan was to do a video of the unpacking...I know , i know some people hate it, but receiving

    a box containing precision instrument is a few things that put a smile onto an engineer face( the world do need more smiling engineer)

    but there was not much there, just the glorious DMM, cabel, test leads and calibration certificate. So let move forward with revview.

     

    Okay..first thing first, the test lead set consists of:

    2pcs of stardards test lead 1000V,15A

    2pcs of fine tip probe attachments 300V, 3A

    1 pc of mini grabber attachment 300V, 3A

    2pcs SMT Grabber attachment 300V,3A

    (notice no temperature probe)

     

    As you can see the probe are CATII rated and have an excelent build quality in term of the

    rubber grip and sharp tips (to pierce those pesky flux/ oxidation at solder joints)

     

     

    Next stop is the calibration certificate:

    My 34461A come calibrated from Agilent Malaysia (i'm sure that it was calibrated by nude virgin deep

    inside Malaysians tropical forest).and it perform above listed spec which i will not discuss here since the precision is to be expected.

     

    Build quality:

    The 34461A is tiny,with dimension of 20cm*30cm*8cm (not including the handle) it is the smallest

    instrument on my workbench.

     

    With my 'instrument tower' as indicator the space in workbench is prime real estate.So size is always a factor.

    Tower.jpg

                                                              Tower of precision

     

    The DMM feel rigid and the anti shock rubber is always a plus. But it is expected in bench multimeter.

     

    34461A came with rear input terminal,which crucial to reduce clutter (typically in industrial setting where

    voltage, current and other value need to be measured simultaneously ).It also a plus that the 34461A  can mounted inside a 19' rack,

    although you do need to buy additional mounting kits for it (does't came with the road test)

     

     

    Now, time to power up this puppy, but wait, make sure the Main AC fuse in the right position.

    Mine was set to 110V (those yankss) and the main here in Germany is 230V.

     

     

     

    The 34461A need around 51s to boot, which is ages comparing it to typical handheld multimeter but

    typical when comparing to other precision instrument (mine Keitley 6487 Picoammeter Voltage Source need to warm up at least 1 hour before

    taking any precision measurement). Mine advice is power up the 34461A, get some coffee, catch up with

    the office gossip , bad mouthing the boss and by the time you get back the DMM is ready to go.

     

    Okay now time to discuss the display, the glorious graphical colour display.Particular the big 'open' sign in continuity test and

    'overload' for resistance measurement.Not saying  that the OLED  display from keitley is unreadable, since this a bench instrument which

    normally place on a well lit workbench but I do see the value in colour graphical display for trend, histogram function.

     

    The 34461A  also offer to add label to the display, which  helpfull when 2 more or more DMM being used to  measure differents values.

    SCREEN_2.png

     

     

     

    For the connectivity test the latching is fast and fan noise is virtually non existence.

     

    Help function:


    The help /tip can be call be pressing shift-->help, which is quite helpful (duh).From my experience, all the

    functions offered by the 34461A is clearly label on the footplate or via the help menu. Thumb up for agilent for taking into account those who to lazy the open the manual

    You can also excess the help of each button by pressing and hold it.

     

     

    Measurement:

    The 34461A offer 5 setting of number of power line cycle (100PLC,10PLC,1 PLC, 0.2PLC,0.02PLC).

    The faster integration the less accurate the measurement is.

    At 100 NPLC we get 1.67s for single measurement and at 0.02 NPLC we get 0.3 msec interval.

    But beware only 1,10, and 10PLC provide normal mode (line frequency noise) rejection .

     

    Another feature I think quite usefull is the high impedance input (10Mohm) which can be turn on and off via the face button.

    Higher impedance mean less load on the circuit but pickup low amplitude signal (noise).

     

    Trigering:

    the 34461A offers 3 trigger types

    1. Auto :Continously takes measuremnt, and refresh trigger after measurement is  completed

    2. Single:Trigger each time 'Single' key is pressed

    3. Ext: external trigger.

     

    Noted that (in Single and ext) you can specify the number of samples to be taken per trigger.

     

    The 34461A can stored up to 10k of reading with stored in circular buffer. Oldest reading lost when new reading taken.

     

    Probe hold:

    Anyone who has worked with  TQFP Chip or any small package knows that probing this small component need alot of concentration (plus the right tongue

    angle). With the probe hold function, user could takes reading without viewing the display.

     

    34461A can hold 8 different readings (different measurement types) for later viewing.For me what makes the probes very useful is 34461A's

    ability to detect stable signal, beeps and move to next measurement.So you could probes multiple points on a pcb inside 19' rack, inside a dark dungeon without

    the need to view the display.

    SCREEN_4.png

     

    Math:

    Another interesting function is the statistical function.

    You can set the 34461A  to take measurements and automatically  calculates statistic from the data.

     

     

    SCREEN_5.png

     

     

    Now let dive into the feature that interest me the most, trend chart and histogram.

    I will not discuss the bar meter function since I don't think it provide better information compare

    to trend chart  or histogram (look awesome thou).

     

    Trend chart

    In theory , trend chart function is very useful to see the stability of any given signal which typically

    done with an oscilloscope.

     

    So how the 34461A  measure up:

     

    SCREEN_3.png

     

    The good

    -Manual and auto vertical scaling for Y-Axis,which in in manual mode the axis can be set to high and low or centre and  span.

    -Low limit and high can be set by user

     

    The 'bad'

    -the X-axis (elapsed time) cannot be adjusted .

     

    Histogram:

    The 34461A offer a binning function in histogram mode.

    User can set the binning option to auto or manual. Noted that number of bins can only be either 10,20,40,100,200 or 400 and

    the user could set the range of each bin.  The number large of bin is great but for me personally, never had to use more than 10 bins.

    SCREEN_1.png

     

    There is also cumulative button which shows  the cumulative distribution function (green line), which always goes up to 100%

     

    Summary:

    As a entry level DMM offers a lot function for the price, and the pedigree is bar none.Few things thou,

    1. No RTD probe or any other temperature probe come with the kit.

    2. No capacitance measurement

    3. No dual display

    4. Time axis is not adjustable in Trend chart mode

     

    Overall the 34461A  is reasonably priced,features packed and it perform more than expected.

    Highly recomended if you are looking for an 6.5 digit bench multimeter

     

     

     

    Join me at the Test and measurement blog where we discuss more regarding the USB connection, how I (hopefully) build a custom GUI in Delphi  for

    an automation measurement,binning etc.

     

    300x250_ban.png


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